ISS Update: JAXA Aquatic Habitat Facility– 08.15.12

>>Brandi Dean: Today we
have with us Tara Ruttley, who is an ISS Program Scientist,
Associate Program Scientist. Tell us a little bit about some
work we saw going on yesterday in the Kibo Laboratory where
engineer [inaudible] was setting up the aquatic habitat. Thanks so much for
joining us, Tara.>>Tara Ruttley: It’s
really good to be back. I love talking to you guys and sharing the science
that’s happening and so, yeah, it sounds like the JAXA Aquatic
Habitat is making its way on the station and the
crew is assembling it, and I really think this
is a really fun facility for future investigations
because it introduces a new type of physiological model
and that’s a fish. So, the Space Station will get
its first tank so to speak.>>Brandi Dean: Is it
basically like an aquarium or?>>Tara Ruttley: Yeah, the
way the hardware is set up is that it’s a system of two
aquariums and each one is about half a liter and the
system can support anywhere from 8 to 12 fish if they’re
zebrafish or medaka fish; those are the two types
that will be studied here. The system is basically kind
of a lot like what you’d see on the ground in terms of
keeping your fish healthy. You’ve got an environmental
control system that has a biological filter
that filters out the waste. There’s a lighting control
system and LED version that gives night and day,
light and dark cycles so the fish have cues
because you don’t get that on the Space Station. There’s automatic
feeders for the fish and there’s an oxygenation
system that make sure the
fish get oxygen and water that they need too. So, it’s a nice big
facility that will be located in the Kibo module
of the Space Station and I think the first set of
fish are scheduled to go up here in the fall on a
[inaudible] flight>>Brandi Dean: Okay.>>Tara Ruttley: So
it’s pretty exciting.>>Brandi Dean: For some reason
I’m imagining this, you know, the little plastic bags that
you carry home from a fair when you win a gold fish
and probably not like that.>>Tara Ruttley:
Not exactly, right, because space flight is a little
bit more complicated than that. These fish will go up in
a small round container that will be loaded
and they have membranes that allow exchange of air
for the fish loaded with water and then launched
up on a [inaudible] and then automatically
inserted into the habitat. When this piece of hardware
gets inserted into the habitat, it will release the
fish into the aquarium. So, it’s pretty exciting. This isn’t the first time that
we’ve flown a fish in space. Our JAXA colleagues have had
a history of good experience with especially zebrafish
and medaka fish; they’ve flown in space.>>Brandi Dean: That’s
what’s going to be in this.>>Tara Ruttley: Yes. Particularly they flew on the
early space shuttle flights, the space [inaudible] flights, and they were particularly
looking at changes in the fish vestibular system
or the system responsible for balance and that plays a
big role in motion sickness. So, the longest that they’ve
ever flown fish were 16 days on a shuttle flight. So what we’re looking at
now for Space Station is about a 90-day flight. So we want to be
able to breed fish over 3 different generations. So first set of fish will
be born on the ground; launched into space; survive
ideally; reproduce in space, so they’ll have children;
and then after that that generation will
produce more fish that were pure space
bred and developed. So the things that the
scientists want to look at when we’re talking about
looking at these fish, why would you even
want to do that? Longer exposure to space flight
tells us more about something that might be applicable
to the crew health. For example, you
can get a good look at these particular
fish muscle system, their skeletal system
and, you know, crew on long-duration space
flights have a lot of changes in their muscle and
their bone systems and so we can get a
little bit of information from how these fish develop and
the longer they stay as well through their bone and muscle. We also can look at
effects of radiation on these particular fish
as well and, in fact, we may glean some really
interesting information about how they develop, early
development, on Space Station because a lot of the
way even we develop, everything that develops, every living organism
has this response to gravity they develop
based on this gravity vector. So it would be really
interesting to see the development
progression in a situation where you take that microgravity
environment away how will these fish turn out? So, I know the crew that
gets these fish are excited. I’ve talked to them about it and they’re anxious
to get going on it. It sounds like the
development is progressing along and so the first set
of experiments is going to be called Medaka osteo class
and that will start in the fall when these fish go up
and osteo class is a type of cell that’s very active
in breaking down the bone, it’s normal, and microgravity
there seems to be process by which they prevail
and go kind of a little bit in
hyperactive mode. As a result, you tend
to break down more bone. So, the investigators
will look at the activity of the osteo class in these fish after their long duration
stay on microgravity.>>Brandi Dean: Okay. Well, a couple of things. You mentioned that breeding
them in the Space Station. I know we brought up before
on purpose mice and spiders and butterflies, but
have we don’t anything that we have had
several generations of?>>Tara Ruttley: No, nothing
that’s been this long term in terms of generational. We’ve sent up, actually
we’ve sent up seedlings, I think plants might be a good
way to think about it and so one of the challenges
of plant growth is to just get multi-generations
of seed-to-seed formation. So, this will be I think the
longest going investigation set in terms of generational
producing of living organisms.>>Brandi Dean: So not only
how the ones that started on earth adapt to
microgravity but also the ones who have never experienced
gravity at all.>>Tara Ruttley:
You got that right. Yeah.>>Brandi Dean: Interesting. Let’s see you also said I think
that it’s going to last 90 days so that gives us a few
crew that will be involved. So they get special training
for it or is it just throw in some fish flakes or?>>Tara Ruttley: I think the
training they get is specific to injecting the fish into their
home and then removing them when the investigation
is over as well as they may add some flakes
to the automatic feeder but otherwise it’s
a see through tank so they can watch the activity,
these fish swim around, so it will be interesting to
see what their perspective is of behavior, you know,
what the crew thinks about having fish on orbit.>>Brandi Dean: Well, this
may reveal my ignorance, but I guess we practice
for space walks in water to simulate microgravity. The fish are already in water. Will it feel very
different to them or?>>Tara Ruttley: I guess
we’ll find out, you know, the vestibular study showed
some changes in their inner ear so there’s definitely
something going on in terms of their physiology I
guess you could say. So, it will be interesting
to see how that manifests and especially with that
third generation, you know, it’s hard to say since we
haven’t gone that far before.>>Brandi Dean: Okay. I guess also this could
eventually be used for amphibians possibly as well?>>Tara Ruttley: Yeah. The tank is pretty versatile. Just imagine what you
could put in your tank at home that could survive. Maybe frogs, right? Or snails or eels even. [laughter] I was just at
the aquarium a few days ago with my daughter and
we were looking at fish and I’m going what could
survive in that aquatic? I was wondering the same
thing myself so who knows. We have a long time
on Space Station.>>Brandi Dean: Have a
menagerie up there eventually.>>Tara Ruttley: That’s right. Never know.>>Brandi Dean: All right. Thank you so much for
coming and talking with us.>>Tara Ruttley: You’re welcome.>>Brandi Dean: I
really appreciate it.>>Tara Ruttley: It
was good to be here.>>Brandi Dean: Again,
this is Tara Ruttley, the Associate Program Scientist
for the Space Station talking with us about the
aquatic habitat that astronaut [inaudible]
put together yesterday on the Space Station
in the Kibo Laboratory.

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